So, what exactly is a collaborative robot?
A collaborative robot is designed specifically to work amongst people with very little ancillary safety equipment. In order to be considered "collaborative" a robot must have one of the following
Safety-rated monitored stop - This means that the robot will stop when a person enters a pre-defined safety zone
Hand Guiding - This means that the robot can be moved by hand.
Speed and Separation monitoring - This means that the robot will slow down when a person enters a pre- defined area.
Power and force limitation - This means that the robot will stop when it hits something that exceeds the preset force/torque level.
The collaborative robot market segment is fairly new and continuingly evolving so some of the functional safety requirement are still a little fuzzy. It is CobotDepot's opinion that in order to truly achieve a collaborative status you must have power and force limitation and hand guiding. Monitoring by itself should not be used to achieve a collaborative state.
When is a collaborative robot not a collaborative robot?
The collaborative certification that comes with a new cobot is only good for the robot itself. The second you add anything to the robot, that robot system is no longer certified as collaborative. It is up to the individual user to understand how the robot system will be used and evaluate all of the safety concerns. For example, if you attach a chain saw to a collaborative robot, the robot system is not collaborative. Why? Because the chain saw does not have force monitoring, has no safety stop, and has no proximity monitoring.
Cobotdepot sells many items that attach to robots, but it is the responsibility of the end user to evaluate how these products are being used in their particular workspace and take appropriate safety precautions to insure that the entire robot systems meets all codes, standards and requirements for their particular industry.
How do I know if I can benefit from a Collaborative robot?
Easy. Answer the following question: Is any person in your production process doing a repetitive manual task?
If the answer is Yes, than you can benefit from a collaborative robot. It's that easy. Humans are terrible at doing repetitive tasks, and honestly it is kind of cruel to expect someone to do that kind of work all day. Robots will out preform and deliver a higher quality at a lower hourly rate than any person on most simple repetitive task. Collaborative robot should be viewed as tools that will augment a humans productivity by freeing up the humans time to do value added critical thinking jobs.
Should I chose a collaborative robot or a traditional industrial robot?
Collaborative robots are great for some things and terrible for others. There are a lot of subjective opinions out there, so you have to be careful who you ask. At the end of the day it's all about creating a functional requirement document that outlines your specific needs. From there it is a matter of matching the right machine to your requirement document. Generally there are a few categories that will tell you pretty quickly if a collaborative robot will work for you.
Process Speed - Collaborative robots are slow; much slower than industrial robots. If your process has a very fast cycle time, than a Cobot is probably not for you. However if you have a slow cycle time than there is no need to have an industrial robot and all of the safety baggage that comes with it.
Manipulated Mass - Collaborative robots have a limited payload. You will have much better luck moving heaver objects with an Industrial robot. However, it makes no sense to have a 35Kg robot moving 2kg parts. It's all about right seizing your equipment. If you need to move lighter objects a cobot is the way to go
Available Space - One of the main selling points of a collaborative robot is that is has a very small footprint. You can bolt it to a table and you are ready to go. An industrial robot requires ancillary safety guarding which sometimes means complete enclosures that take up large amounts of area and are not mobile. If you need a small, flexable footprint, a Cobot is a much better choice.
Interaction with People - The biggest benefit to a collaborative robot is its ability to work right next to its human counterpart. A cobot is best utilized when it is an extension of a human working hand in hand. Industrial robots are killers. They will beat a person to death and not miss a beat. They must be kept sequestered from people with multiple levels of safety guarding. All of which comes at a price. So, if you need a automation solution that works in conjunction with people a cobot is better suited for the application.